Txting Mr Darcy Gets PWNED: An Interview with Erika Mitchell (Part One!)

Author photo courtesy of E. Mitchell

Today, I am thrilled to host my very first REAL LIFE PUBLISHED AUTHOR (yes. Caplock was necessary) for an intimate fireside chat. Ok, let’s pretend it was intimate and fireside. Without being creepy. I should really just stop talking now.

When Erika asked if I wanted to do a giveaway of her book, I jumped at the chance. We’ve been blogfriends for a number of years, and I thought it would be fun for the rest of you to get to know her as well. We’ve discussed everything from weddings to surviving the zombie apocalypse, and it’s been a blast to follow her evolution from newlywed, to new mom, to published author.

Without further ado…

When I first started reading your personal blog, you were pregnant with your son Aidan and working for Bottle Your Brand. What led you to take the leap into writing full-time?

I’m not sure whether to blame my husband or my son for that decision! The older Aidan got, the less he slept. I used to get all my work and writing done while he was sleeping, and the shorter his naps got, the grumpier I got trying to fit it all in. Wes, being the supremely supportive man he is, told me to stick with the writing if I had to pick just one extracurricular activity.

How do you balance working from home and being a mom? Are some days easier than others?

It’s a precarious balance, to be sure. The problem with being a stay at home mother is that there’s ALWAYS work to do around the house. I’ve had to train my brain to ignore everything but my writing when it’s time to work. So long as my son sleeps, my husband doesn’t need anything, and there’s no housework to be done, writing is super easy! *snort*

What drew you to writing thrillers?

I started out writing chick lit, but couldn’t seem to stop writing in clichés. My brain tends to function as a perilous, thrilling place anyway, so I decided to give thrillers a try. They’re so much fun to write, I’m not even sure they qualify as work.

How much of Pwned came from personal experience?

Other than Sean’s writing in a coffee shop, I made it all up. I interviewed as many gamers as I could to get a feel for the culture, and I learned how to play Starcraft and watched a whole bunch of tournaments and livestreams, but other than that I made everything up on the spot.

When I was in college, the guys I lived me insisted that I play by “Bumke” whenever I wanted to join their many games of “Halo”. The main character of PWNED goes by the gaming handle CaptainObvious. What is YOUR gamer alias?

Smokey. I was drunk when I christened myself with that moniker and I have absolutely no intention of changing it.

There are so many directions that I could go with that… but some things are best left unsaid. Bumke out. Niner.

Are some of the characters in the book based on people that you know in real life? Can you give us a clue as to which ones?

Some of the people in the book are real-life professional Starcraft rock stars. Day9 is a gaming commentator, and Tasteless and Artosis are the official English Starcraft gamecasters for the GSL, but I’ve never met any of them. I try not to base my characters off people I know, but I’ll pick up quirks or mannerisms from my friends and family and throw those in there if I’m feeling spicy.

How did you know that you had a really promising novel with PWNED? What prompted you to take the step of working to get it published? 

I came up with the idea for this book after watching my husband watching Starcraft commentary. He introduced me to the world of esports and I thought it could make for a fun thriller. When it was done I knew it wasn’t The Great American Novel but I figured it was an entertaining read at the very least. I figured I’d put it out there and introduce some more people to professional Starcraft and esports.

It’s certainly a very different basis for a thriller than the typical “murder/espionage/theft/monkey-virus” plots that came before.

Who do you trust to read your work before you’re ready to publish?

The people I trust to read my stuff before it goes live are so few I can count them all on one hand minus my thumb. They’re the rare friends/family who will actually follow through when they say they want to read my stuff.

How much do you typically outline before you write? 

None. I’m what’s known as a “pantser”, which means I write by the seat of my pants. I basically meet my characters, get them into trouble, and then watch and see how they get themselves out of it.

Norman, the novel’s antagonist,  devises a complicated scheme to keep Sean, his biggest rival, detained in the US and unable to compete in the GSL (Global Starcraft League) tournament. Did you have a basic idea of his trickery before you started writing, or did it come to you as you advanced the plot?

I had to research Noman’s trickery quite a bit, so I had a really good idea of what it was going to look like. His character arc took me by surprise, though. I wasn’t expecting him to change so much.

He certainly doesn’t follow a typical plotline for a villain. And… I have to admit this… the whole time I was reading, I kinda pictured him as a younger Wayne Knight (aka “Newman” from Seinfeld). Nervous energy and all!

You’re a California native, and live in Seattle now- how much research did you have to do to convincingly set parts of your novel in Washington DC and Korea?

I have a friend who lives in the DC area, so I picked his brain quite a bit for the NSA scenes. As for South Korea, Google is an author’s best friend! I read tour guides, pored over maps, and watched so many weird South Korean YouTube videos I could cry.

While we’re on the topic of research, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever caught yourself looking up for the purpose of a novel?

When I was writing Enemy Accountant, I had to look up Rules For a Gunfight (seriously, go Google that. So fun!) and how to assemble and work with C4. As for PWNED, I did a lot of research on private planes, which was fun, and also on the parts of The Patriot Act which deal specifically with potentially seditious information on personal computers. The legal aspects of PWNED are meticulously researched and as true as I can make them without getting personally arrested.

Dun dun dunnnn!!! Ok, in case you haven’t entered our GIVEAWAY yet, you must want to after reading that cliffhanger! Make sure to check back tomorrow for the conclusion of my chat with Erika, and feel free to give her a shout out on Facebook. She’s really as awesome as she seems. I promise. 😉

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2 thoughts on “Txting Mr Darcy Gets PWNED: An Interview with Erika Mitchell (Part One!)

  1. Pantsing = crazy! I consult my outline CONSTANTLY as I try to keep straight whether my some character can say that thing yet, or whether they’re allowed to meet someone without it screwing up my plans for later. Way too OCD to just go with the flow.

  2. Ha! Isn’t it weird how every writer has his/her own style? I tried making an outline once and it stymied me. I was completely unable to write anything! And yes pantsing does mean that I have to do extensive rewrites and revisions, but it all shakes out well in the end.

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